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The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen calls on the Human Rights Council to intensify efforts to bring about a cease fire and reach a peace agreement

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News briefing:

Translation and editing by: Committee for Justice

Geneva, 28 February 2021

In his address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Chairperson of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, Kamel Jendoubi, called on the Human Rights Council to urgently expedite and intensify diplomatic efforts to bring about a ceasefire and help create a framework for negotiating a comprehensive and sustainable peace in Yemen.

There are no signs of abating from the parties of the conflict:

“The war in Yemen will soon enter its seventh year and shows no signs of abating. Tragically, as the conflict continues, violations of international human rights and humanitarian law continue to be perpetrated at an alarming rate and scale. In previous mandates, given the sheer scope and number of the violations occurring on the ground, the Group of Experts has had to prioritize the examination of various categories of violations and numerous incidents according to their gravity, intensity and significance,” said Jendoubi.

Concern over heavy toll of civilian casualties:

Jendoubi conveyed his team’s grave concern about the heavy toll of the conflict on civilians in Yemen. Pointing out that the failure to reach a permanent and comprehensive peace agreement has mired Yemenis in a bloody quagmire, the negative effects of which are exacerbated by the deterioration of the economic and political conditions.

The Chairperson added that: “Although the exchange of 1,056 prisoners between the Government of Yemen and the de facto authorities in October 2020 represents a positive development, it also demonstrates the magnitude of the campaign waged by the parties to the conflict against civilians, as measured through their policies of detentions and forced disappearances. Women, holding photographs of their disappeared relatives, have become an enduring image of suffering in Yemen. An image that speaks volumes about the gravity of the violation of enforced disappearance: the taking of a father, a husband, a brother or a son, the desperate search for their whereabouts through official and unofficial channels, and the misery for those left behind.”

Late political developments:

Regarding political developments, Jendoubi stressed in his speech that the formation of the government as a result of negotiations between the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) was an important step towards reaching peace in Yemen, although it came about thirteen months after the conclusion of the 2019 Riyadh Agreement. Jendoubi noted that the newly formed government lacks any female representation, and this is the first time in twenty years that a woman has not been appointed to the cabinet.

Jendoubi expressed the Group felt was very dismayed that, as the newly formed government was landing at Aden International Airport on December 30, 2020, several missiles targeted the airport, killing at least 25 people and wounding 110, stressing that this attack signifies the continuing disregard of international humanitarian and human rights law that characterizes the ongoing war.

Denying civilians their basic rights:

The Chairperson said: “The scale of the attacks, the weaponry used, and the resulting number of casualties share certain commonalities, regardless of whether the attacks are being committed by the Government of Yemen, the Coalition, or the de facto authorities. In no instance have the warring parties shown any genuine commitment to their obligations under international law to take all feasible precautions in attack, and to avoid or minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects.”

Jendoubi added: “The warring parties in Yemen continue to deprive civilians of their right to access affordable medical care, notably through their continued attacks on hospitals and medical units and their targeting of health personnel. As COVID-19 spreads throughout the country, Yemen is facing an emergency within an emergency, as the remaining half of the health facilities that are operational in Yemen are underequipped to cope with the disease.”

Jendoubi conveyed the Group’s grave concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, and the ways in which the parties’ behavior is exacerbating it, adding: “Not surprisingly, humanitarian actors are releasing ever more alarming figures about the “World’s worst humanitarian crisis” that is Yemen. In view of the continued lack of funding for international humanitarian assistance for Yemen, the already dire humanitarian crisis is only worsening.”

Jendoubi stressed that the new US administration’s suspension of the decision to classify the de facto authorities as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is an important step towards ensuring the continuation of the provision of humanitarian aid. He reiterated his call for the international community to act urgently to increase financial support that would help prevent famine in Yemen.

The Chairman expressed the Group’s great disappointment at the shrinking democratic space and the lack of basic freedoms, which is reflected in the continuing restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of religion, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearance, and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders, and members of minorities in Yemen.

Jendoubi concluded his speech before the Human Rights Council by saying: “Today, the Group of Experts reiterates what has been established during its last three consecutive mandates: that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Yemen have committed serious crimes, breached international human rights law, and caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The situation has further worsened due to the economic breakdown and permanent damage to public infrastructure occasioned by the war. While the Group of Experts welcomes the recent decisions made by Italy and the USA on arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the USA decision to end support for what it calls “offensive operations” in the war in Yemen, we call upon all other States who continue to supply arms to review their positions in line with the requirements of international law. The Group also calls on all third States to contribute to the current peace negotiations to their fullest.”

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